President’s Day is a national holiday created to honor those who served as leaders of the state, yet one question still remains… What about their pets?
The life of a President is admittedly quite a bit different than the average American; however, one commonality that seems to span all occupations is that people simply love animals.
Many may be aware of the long history of Presidents owning dogs, with over 100 canine companions having lived in the White House. While George Washington was reported to be quite the animal lover, President John Adams can be credited with owning the first presidential pooches in 1800.
Lesser known are the more unique animals such as Woodrow Wilson’s herd of sheep that used to graze the White House lawn, or Benjamin Harrison’s billy goat, “Old Whiskers”.
Without further ado, here’s a look at some of the most famous (and strange) furry companions that have called the White House home.
The story of Billy Opossum is a strange one, even by President Hoover’s standards whose roster of pets also included a dog, 2 cats, 11 goldfish, a canary, 3 frogs, 14 chickens, 2 turtles, and a rabbit.
In 1929, Billy Opossum wandered onto the White House lawn and was quickly adopted by President Hoover. At the same time, students from a high school in Hyattsville, Maryland were devastated by the news that their mascot, a live opossum, had vanished. The student’s heavily believed in the luck their marsupial mascot gave them. After losing the first game of the season without their iconic opossum, spirits were understandably low in Hyattsville, but not all was lost.
The school wrote President Hoover about the possibility of having Billy Opossum fill the role of their mascot for the sport season and to their surprise, Hoover agreed to loan Billy to the school. The plan worked; the high school won their championship game!
Rebecca the Racoon
Another pet with a strange story, Rebecca the Raccoon, was adopted by 30th President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, in 1926. Another President boasting an impressive list of pets, Coolidge had 13 dogs, 6 birds, 2 cats, a donkey, a bobcat, and was later gifted 2 lion cubs, a wallaby, a pygmy hippo, and even a black bear!
The story of Rebecca goes as such: Coolidge was sent a live raccoon by supporters in Mississippi intended to be eaten by the President and his family for Thanksgiving. Instead, President Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge decided to keep Rebecca as a pet. Rebecca reportedly was allowed to freely roam inside the White House and climb trees on the lawn. She was even seen being walked on a leash attached to an embroidered collar that stated “White House Raccoon”.
Macaroni the Pony
One of the more famously odd Presidential pets, Macaroni was a 10-year-old Shetland gelding pony, who was also accompanied by another pony “Leprechaun” and eventually “Tex” who was a gift from Lyndon B. Johnson to Caroline Kennedy in 1962.
Like previous inclusions, JFK was no stranger to having a vast array of pets including 2 hamsters, a cat, a cannery, 4 dogs, and 2 parakeets. Macaroni was photographed extensively running around the White House yard, eventually becoming something of a celebrity. Macaroni even received an ornate saddle from King Hassan II of Morocco the same year.
Socks the Cat
Arguably the most famous Presidential pet to exist, Socks (the outgoing tuxedo cat) grabbed national headlines in 1991 when he jumped into the arms of Chelsea Clinton as she was leaving a piano lesson in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was then brought back to the White House under the Clinton administration where he became an icon for cat lovers across the nation earning the official title: “Chief Executive Cat”.
Socks was pictured roaming throughout the White House, even standing up at the podium in the Briefing Room on one occasion. Socks’ impact was very large with numerous books written about him, being featured in a White House video tour, and as the subject in a series of postage stamps from the Central African Republic.
Major and Willow
Did you know that Major (a 4-year-old german shepherd), adopted by the Bidens in 2018, was the first shelter dog to live in the White House? Adopted from the Delaware Humane Association, Major’s stay at the White House proved to be a bit too overwhelming for the pup who was sent to live with family friends in December to be in a more relaxing environment after careful consideration.
However, two new pets have recently moved in, Commander (a 5-month-old german shepherd) and Willow (a 2-year-old tabby cat). Willow previously lived on a farm where she met the Biden family in Willow Grove, PA. After interacting with Willow during a campaign speech in Dr. Biden’s hometown, the family later adopted her! She now struts the halls of the White House, being the first COTUS (Cat of the United States) since President George W. Bush’s cat, India.